PROVO — And you thought dating was difficult.

Modeled on the recent trend known as "speed dating," where singles rotate through a room to meet multiple members of the opposite sex in one outing, a group of entrepreneurs took part in the inaugural "speed pitching" event on Tuesday at the Provo Marriott.

The event was hosted by fundingutah.com, a local company that matches entrepreneurs with investors, and gave 10 small-business owners a chance to pitch their ideas to a number of potential investors in an effort to get the funds needed to turn dreams into marketable realities.

"For me, it's exciting, because I meet with 10 investors all in one shot," said Chad Fox, of Net Fundz. "Where it would take two or three weeks to get in one meeting with one investor, I get it all done in a one- or two-hour session."

Presenters had five minutes at each station, making for a high-pressure situation that had at least one entrepreneur taking unused lunch napkins to wipe the sweat off his brow, and another presenter coughing and hoarse by the time the event ended.

"It was good," Fox said. "You know five minutes is real short, and it was hot and loud. But I think it was good, and we'll have to see."

Investors agreed that the time was short, but they said they usually only need about five minutes to decide if a project is worth funding, anyway.

"It's really just a vehicle to present a concept, and after that, if it captivates your interest, you'll find another avenue to pursue it," said Tony Howells, an investor with Olympus Angels.

Howells said some of the presenters had a difficult time condensing the message, but there were a couple ideas that piqued his interest enough to find out more.

Alex Holderness, an entrepreneurial consultant from San Francisco, was in attendance to advise one of the presenters. He said the event was a success because it included angels (wealthy, private investors), a valuable, but sometimes unused, segment of the investing community.

Most of the investors at Tuesday's events were angels, and entrepreneurs agreed that angels tend to be easier to work with because they are not bound by the strict regulations of a traditional venture capital company.

"I think it's a success, given that they're targeting a segment of the investment community, the angels, that don't normally get out and get the opportunity to see multiple companies, but also have capital requirements that tend to be smaller," Holderness said. "I think if they find the right match of companies and investors, there's a hole there."

Rahul K. Banta, another consultant, credited event organizers for rounding up serious entrepreneurs.

"They get potentially higher-quality and more qualified people coming," Banta said, "as opposed to people who say, 'I have this idea on the back of a napkin' or 'Gee, in the shower I've always thought of whatever.' "

Entrepreneurs pitched a range of ideas, from new modes of mobile advertising to improved methods for creating engineering schematics. Some presenters had product demonstrations, others power point presentations, and some just sat at the table and explained their concept.

Rix Ryskamp of Simpligent was pitching simplified telephone networks for small businesses. He said the event was "very useful," and the fact that he was presenting to angels made it somewhat less stressful.

"I didn't feel overly stressed at any particular point," he said. "I felt like everybody was very friendly. Sometimes when you're raising money, you run into people that are kind of mean, and I felt like everybody here was very polite."

Paul Allen, founder of fundingutah.com, said this was the first time his company physically arranged a meeting between entrepreneurs and investors, but it won't be the last, because he believes it is important for entrepreneurs to meet as many investors as possible.

"The (idea) I thought was the most fundable of all, I went to another table and they thought it was the worst presentation of all," he said. "And that's why you need to meet lots and lots of people, because with some people an idea will click, and with some people it just won't click."

Allen said for future events, he likely would sit down with entrepreneurs and coach them so presentations would be more concise and address the most crucial information in the eyes of investors.


E-mail: jtwitchell@desnews.com